For the new release from the legendary Breizh band Melmor- who first merged Breton Celtic Folk and Punk-Rock – we are pleased to have a great guest reviewer in Irminsul from the Hawaiian Celtic band The Kona Rogues.
One of my favorite moments in music is not when convention is breached, but when it is smashed on the floor into a million pieces so hard that a new thing is born. That’s exactly what I got when I first got into the newest release “Dremmwel Du” from Bretagne Celtic hardcore punk act MELMOR.
Originally formed in 1993, MELMOR comes from a part of the world and culture which is not always given its proper due when it comes to music. Celtic Breton music is a thing, to be sure, but not a lot of listeners connect the dots when they hear the term. Breton (Brittany, France) is actually the birthplace of the British culture. Founded by Brythonic Celts, one of their tribes – the “Pritani” – made their way across the channel and settled on what is now the main British Isle. The “P Celts” as they came to be known, were the seeds of the Welsh and Cornish peoples, and with them came all the cultural flair, swagger and emotion of the Bretons.
When I cranked up “Dremmwel Du” (“Black Horizon”) I was certainly not missing any of the elements of Celtic hard core punk. The crunchy, driving guitars. The breakneck speed drums. The anguished, Banshee with a sandy voice vocals. But the first track “Horizon Noir” took a unique turn with the entry of the violin. Not just any violin, but one juiced on jet fuel. And, Christ on a pogo stick, it was so in sync with the driving band that it felt like it was always meant to be like that. I have played with a lot of violinists (fiddlers, if the term suits you) of all kinds and rarely do you find a player able to make his instrument not just settle into the chaotic frenzy, but appear to LEAD it. “Black Horizon” grabs you by the hand and kicks your backside down that path with the power and madness, oddly structured in a way that shows more control than most. Tasty breaks, so that you’re not lulled into an unbroken chain of double kick beater fuzz. Places to take a breath, and dive back in. “Horizon Noir” lives up to its name, as you definitely get the feeling you staring into one.
“C’hoar Vihan” (Little Sister) starts you off on a single note rail, joined by some breathy chants of an almost Gregorian nature. The signature lyric violin kicks in, with a hook that will have you till the end of the song. Drifting into an expanse of tribal drums, it takes a detour setting the stage for the vocal to firm up into more melodic consistency; then again blasting out to frantic nature of the song, joined nicely by a reprise of the chantlike backing vocals. This one is very pleasing, it has an attitude that shows off their dexterity as musicians to go along with the high octane expectations of the genre. With the kick off of “Une dernière larme” (“One Last Tear”), I definitely got the sense of a nod to the Irish. Or did The Irish get it from them? I’ll not get caught up in that chicken and egg, but something about the lilt and memorability of the violin, you could come away with humming this tune and never forget it. Tastily punctuated by some Hey Hos (always a crowd pleaser, from experience) we get treated to some more choral type vocals, which show off the band’s vocal credibility without losing the urgency built up by the other tracks. What comes clear at this point, also, is that this band’s sound is tighter than Scrooge McDuck’s wallet. The benefits, no doubt, of being in the swim for so many years.
I had a hard time with the translation of the final track “Ghast!”, because I got that it could be “Ghost”, “To Frighten” or even “Prostitute”…so with apologies to the band I’ll have to plead ignorance on that note. It blasts out of the gate definitely sounding like a familiar Celtic traditional. It felt like a four-on-the-floor morphing of a slip jig, which is usually in triple time. No small feat, if that’s what it was. But no matter, it’s another great track by MELMOR, showing us how easily they slip from the hard core into the traditional, back again, and then mixing the two.
In all, MELMOR should be regarded as one of the greats of this game. Not just because they have this unique sound down so tight, but that they have definitely earned their stripes being around and kicking for over 30 years. Most importantly, they haven’t sacrificed two elements which are so vital to Celtic hardcore and punk: Life, and yes, even fun. Honestly, there are times you can’t tell whether these guys are funning around or being deadly serious about what they are doing. Or, maybe doing both brings the message out. Because, in the tongue of their births ,
“Etre c’hoari ha fars, e vez lavaret ar wirionez da galz”.
“Between playing and joking, you tell the truth to the world.”
(You can stream / download Dremmwel du via the Bandcamp player below)
Download Dremmwel du Bandcamp
Contact Melmor Facebook YouTube
Our thanks to Irminsul for the knowledgeable review. We hope to read more from his pen in the future. You should look up his excellent band The Kona Rogues – Rock/Punk fuelled Celtic roots music taking rebellion to a whole new level. They are just about the only Celtic-Punk band with a harp in the scene and the only Celtic-Punk band on the whole island of Hawaii. Their debut album Batten Down The Hatches reached a very respectable #16 in the Best Celtic-Punk Album of the year and is available to download or stream from Bandcamp.
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